Sitting on the desktop is a perfectly serviceable PowerMac G4 Sawtooth running at
400 MHz. When new, it seemed incredibly fast, particularly compared to the 68040
machine it replaced. But after nearly four years of ownership, it is beginning to
become long in the tooth, particularly when running OS X. A new machine would break
the budget. What to do?
Upgrade the processor - that's what to do. Prices have been falling, and Sonnet Technologies
Encore/ST G4 running at 1.2 GHz is available for under $450 at this writing. A couple
of clicks in Safari and a processor card is on the way to my door.
While waiting for delivery, I checked the Sonnet website at http://sonnetttech.com and found they had an installation
manual and an addendum. The installation manual said to make sure that you are running
the latest firmware update (4.28), and tells you how to check. I was running 4.28,
so I went to the addendum, where I was warned that some systems may give incorrect
speed indications in the System Profiler while running Jaguar. The solution was to
install a couple of kext files, available in an installer from Sonnet. I downloaded
the installer, but did not run it, preferring to see if it would be necessary.
The processor arrived with paper copies of the PDF files I had downloaded. The process
of swapping was incredibly simple. Shut down the computer and let it cool. Open it
up, ground yourself, and unplug the power cord. Remove the heat sink and old processor
as in this figure:
Remove the protective cover from the processor connector on the new card and place
it on the old processor for protection. Put the old processor into the anti-static
bag for safekeeping, then insert the new processor onto the motherboard:
Place the Heat Sink onto the new processor:
Thats it! Close up the G4, plug the power back in and power it up.
The difference manifests itself immediately in faster start-ups. No, it wasn't three
times faster starting up, but it was nearly 25% faster. Not bad, considering that
I didn't change hard drives, memory, or buses. In OS X, the finder is best described
as "snappy". The processor loafs along for most tasks - where the 400 MHz
processor was running at 100% during such tasks as encoding a song in iTunes or preparing
a CD for burning, the Encore/ST runs at 25-40%. I have a Radeon 8500 video card in
my Sawtooth, and was only seeing Visualizer frame rates of 15-17 frames per second
before. Now they are 45-50 fps, so I am truly seeing triple performance in what are
primarily processor intensive tasks.
What's not to like about this upgrade? It is hard to find anything negative about
it. Some web sites fault Sonnet for not giving the option of over-clocking, and dislike
the fact that it reuses the heat sink rather than supplying a new fan-augmented one
like Gigadesigns does. But the reports on other processor companies complained of
defective hardware, hard to decipher jumper settings, and difficult installation.
Sonnet's solution is truly plug and play.
- Easy Installation
- No Jumpers
- Noticeble Speed Jump
out of 5 Mice